Poncho Sanchez was born on October 30, 1951 in Laredo, Texas and is a Mexican-American conga player, Latin jazz band leader, and a salsa singer. 2000 marked a Grammy Award for Sanchez and his ensemble for 'Best Latin Jazz Album' on the Concord Picante album, “Latin Soul.” In addition to his solo work, Sanchez has collaborated with artists, such as Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Dianne Reeves, Joey DeFrancesco, and Terence Blanchard. After a career spanning 34 years, Sanchez is one of the most respected Conga/Latin Jazz musicians in America today.
Sanchez was born in a large family, with eleven siblings; his parents were musical and exposed him to Afro-Cuban music, such as mambo, cha-cha, rumba, guaracha, and salsa. Sanchez listened to the greats, such as Tito Puente; however, he was also drawn to the sounds of bebop jazz and was a huge Charlie Parker fan. Sanchez's love for music began with playing the guitar before he discovered that he possessed a voice. As a teenager he joined the R&B band, The Halos, and became their lead vocalist. As the year progressed, Sanchez taught himself to play the flute, the drums, and timbales.
1975 provided Sanchez with the musical break he had been looking for when vibraphonist, Cal Tjader, invited him to perform with his band. A long-time idol of Sanchez's he stayed with the band until Tjader's death in 1982. Shortly thereafter, Concord Records founder Carl Jefferson signed Sanchez to the Concord Picante label. Two solo albums emerged: “Poncho” in 1979 and “Straight Ahead” in 1980” before Sanchez formed his own ensemble and began recording as part of a group. 19 albums later, and Sanchez was graced with a Grammy Award for his work.
Throughout his career, Sanchez has performed with artists, such as Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaría, Hugh Masekela, Clare Fischer and Tower of Power. As the 2000s emerged, Sanchez continued to perform frequently and release music; of note was his 2005 album, “Do It!,” which featured the funk band Tower of Power and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela; and 2009's hard bop-influenced album, “ Psychedelic Blues.” 2011 saw Sanchez pay tribute to the Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo with a collaboration with trumpeter Terence Blanchard for “Chano y Dizzy!”